MADISON COUNTY (Feb. 13, 2015) – A Madison County couple learned their punishment after more than 100 dead and malnourished animals were found on their Madison County farm. Animal control officers called it one of the worst cases they've ever seen.
Daniel and Carrie Ault were sentenced to probation in the case. They pleaded guilty back in January. Each initially faced 96 charges of improper disposal of a dead animal and 15 counts of animal cruelty. They also faced two counts of neglect of a dependent. They agreed to plead guilty to four counts of improper disposal as part of the agreement. The other charges were dropped.
Daniel Ault was convicted on felony charges and will serve 24 months probation. If he complies with the terms of probation the felony could be changed to a misdemeanor. His wife will be on probation for 12 months without any felonies on her record.
Ault told the court he became desensitized to all the dead animals and didn't have time to properly dispose of their remains.
Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said with the current law he felt like his hands were tied. He said Ault didn't show enough remorse and felt as though the case was being blown out of proportion.
"It may not seem like a significant punishment but given the levels of sentences that are available for this kind of crime it's the best we could do," said Cummings.
The case began in April 2013 after neighbors complained about a foul odor coming from the Ault farm near Summitville. After arriving on the property, investigators found dozens of horses, goats, sheep, geese, cows and chickens inside the barn. Sources said the surviving animals were just “skin and bones.”
Animal rights activists and rescue groups showed up to the sentencing hearing, some wore matching purple sweatshirts. Several people in the courtroom responded to the farm that day to help care for the animals. One woman who showed up owns three surviving horses that were removed from the farm. She brought a poster to the hearing brought a poster depicting their progress.
"It was appalling like I said I've been on a farm my whole life and I have never seen anything like what we saw. When we first got there we saw three dead horses being dragged out," said Lora Rosencrans, who now owns three of the horses.
Investigators found a total of 171 dead animals on the farm, according to the probable cause affidavit. Authorities also found 165 surviving animals. Of 17 surviving animals taken for analysis, only two were found to be within normal range.
"There have been a lot of rumors about what went on out there a lot of speculation, a lot of just frankly criticism of the Aults that the evidence, the actual state experts didn't support," said Bryan Williams, defense attorney for the Aults.
The cleanup and disposal of the animals cost about $30,000, according to Madison County officials. The judge ruled the couple will not have to pay restitution but the couple could still face a civil lawsuit to recoup cleanup costs.
The Aults used to live in Hamilton County where their farm was cited for two violations. According to court testimony, there was one instance where a dead bird was found in a trailer without water. Animal control officers said they responded to the farm about seven times in a two year period.